Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study looking at whether people from different ethnic backgrounds cope differently when told that their cancer treatment may prevent them having children
This study looked at how people cope with being told that their cancer treatment may affect their fertility, and the issues this raises for people of either South Asian or White origin.
Some cancer treatments can affect your ability to have children in the future. This may have an impact on people during their treatment and for many years afterwards, but there has been very little research looking into this.
In this study, the researchers wanted to find out more about how reduced fertility affects people from different backgrounds. The research team spoke to some people of South Asian origin and some people of White origin.
The aims of the study were to
- Compare the experiences of people from different ethnic backgrounds
- Identify any gaps in the service offered by health professionals
- Make recommendations to improve the service
Summary of results
The research team from the University of York talked to 47 people - 26 people of white origin and 21 people of South Asian origin. Everyone they spoke to had lymphoma, sarcoma, testicular cancer or breast cancer.
The research team asked the people taking part about things such as
- The social and emotional impact of having treatment that may mean they are unable to have children in the future
- How they made decisions about treatment
- What information and support they had from health care professionals
- How important the role of family and friends was
They found that
- Doctors usually discussed the risk of losing fertility with patients before treatment, but were unable to be definite about it
- Most men felt able to provide a sperm sample to use in the future, despite assumptions that Muslim men may not be able to for religious reasons
- Issues about fertility were often not discussed during follow up appointments, unless they were raised by the patient
- Having a family is equally important to everyone, regardless of ethnic origin
- Being infertile as a man is an important issue to all men, regardless of ethnic origin
- Women who had problems conceiving after treatment felt, looking back, that they didn’t get enough information or support
- People who had to leave work or education because of their treatment found it hard to find advice
The research team analysed the results and made the following recommendations
- Everyone due to have treatment that will affect their fertility should have to chance to see a specialist in reproductive medicine before they start treatment
- It is important to discuss fertility issues during follow up
- People should also get advice about finance and benefits
- There needs to be better co-ordination of care between staff at the GP surgery and those at the hospital
- It is important that health professionals don’t make assumptions based on ethnic background
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the study. As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Prof Karl Atkin
Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)